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Ted Siddoway, a San Francisco architect, lived on the east side of Telegraph Hill in
San Francisco's North Beach for 53 years. The apartment building he chose was
perched on a steep cliff with step-down apartments stacked against the hill. He
lived at the bottom apartment with over 90 steps to reach his front door. His
memories give us a sense of what it was like to be perched in his eagle's nest.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
San Francisco Public Library
THIS INTERVIEW IS THE PROPERTY
THE TELEGRAPH HILL DWELLERS
NO PORTION OF THIS TRANSCRIPTION MAY BE
QUOTED OR REPRODUCED WTTHOUr WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM:
Office of the President
The Telegraph Hill Dwellers
P.O. Box 3301 59
San Frandsco, CA 941 33
P.O. BOX 330159 SAN FRANCISCO. CA 94133 - 415.273.1004 www.fhd.orc
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PROJECT: TELEGRAPH HILL DWELLERS ORAL HISTORY
HARRATOR: Ted Siddoway
INTERVIEW DATES: July 14, 2006
INTERVIEWER: Gail Switzer
TRANSCRIPT DATES: April 24, 2007
TRANSCRIBER: Claudette Alison
EDITORS: Rozell Ovexmire
PHOTO EDITING AND
PHOTO CCMPOSITION: Peter Ovejnoire
Transcriber' s/Editor' s Comments
[Ted Siddoway, an architect, lived on Telegraph Hill in the
North Beach district of San Francisco for over 50 yecurs in
the same apcurtment on the east side of the hill. He
remembers his favorite haunts of the district and a few of
the surprising events that happened on and around the
Name J. Theodore
Address 48 Calhoun Terrace
Date of Birth June 29. 1925
Place of Birth Tehon Citv. Idaho
Name Date and Place of Birth Date and Place of Death
[JTS's ancestors (Briggs from Lancaster, England and Siddoways from Durham,
England) came to the U.S. and went to Utah.]
FATHERS SIDE, GRANDPARENTS:
James William Siddowav 09/14/1861 . Salt Lake City. UT 1917. age 56. Idaho
Ruth Ann (Briggs) Siddowav 03/19/1868. Salt Lake Citv. UT 1929. age 61 . Idaho
[After their marriage, the Siddoways moved to Tehon City, Idaho where they were
MOTHER'S SIDE, GRANDPARENTS:
James William Bean 11/19/1853. Provo. UT 08/5/1941. age 88. Teton
Olive (Smoot) Bean 02/1 0/1 860. Salt Lake Citv. UT 07/27/1 943. age 83.
[The Beans had 15 children, 1 1 of which lived to adulthood. Mr. Bean was a
polygamist and had another family that lived next door in Provo. His second wife was
called Aunt by his chikJren and both families got along and were friends.]
James Clarence Siddowav 04/22/1889. Tehon Citv. ID 08/28/1967. age 78. Teton
Ruth (Bean) Siddowav 06/08/1 896. Provo. UT 05/1 8/1 983. age 87. St.
[Ruth Bean moved from Provo to Teton City at age 18. The Siddoways were running a
sheep business and farming and her family were farmers. Clarence and Ruth were
married in 1917 and had 8 children, 7 boys and 1 girl.]
Date and Place of Birth
Date and Place of Death
09/091918. Tehon Citv. ID
Idaho Falls. ID
Raymond Kenneth (Bill)
10/16/1919. TehonCltv. ID
St. Anthonv. ID
02/02/1921. Tehon Citv. ID
Idaho Falls. ID
05/22/1922. Tehon Citv. ID
Forest R. (Bud)
12/104/1923. Tehon Citv. ID
Idaho Falls. ID
08/22/1926. Tehon Citv. ID
03/09/1930. Tehon Citv. ID
Santa Rosa. CA
JTS never married.
[JTS lived In Tehon City, ID until serving in the Army/Air Force during WWII. There he
was good friends with a man who was planning to go to Stanford University after the
war. All of his brothers had gone to the University of Idaho. However, his mother had
visited Stanford and liked It so JTS decided to go there. He graduated in Art Design
after three years, in 1949. He wanted to be an Architect since he was eight years old.
Stanford did not have a School of Architecture at the time so he applied to Harvard and
Princeton and was accepted by both. He decided to go to Harvard because Gropius
After graduating, he knew he didn't want to stay on the east coast. He travellled in
Europe for 15 months and then came back to San Francisco in January, 1955. He
moved to 48 Calhoun Ten-ace on February 2, 1955 and moved away in May, 2008.
has been told that his apartment is where Diego Rivera stayed when he was in San
Francisco with Freda Kahio, painting his murals.]
Ted Siddoway - Narrator, July 14, 2006
Gail Switzer, Interviewer, at 48 Calhoun Terrace, San Francisco, California.
GAIL SWITZER; This is Gail Switzer for the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.
It's Friday, July 14*, and I'm interviewing Ted Siddoway who has lived on the Hill at 48
Calhoun Terrace since 1955. So we'll now have Ted start talking. If you want to just give
your brief background that brought you to the Hill.
Ted Siddoway: All right. I'm J. Theodore Siddoway, actually, initial J. only, but I'm known
as Ted by all my friends and family. I was not bom here, I was born in a fanning village in
Eastern Idaho near the Grand Teton country and my early life was among fanners. My
father was a farmer and I went to school in the village of Teton and Rexburg, Idaho. Then
I was taken into the Amriy for two and a half years and was in the Anny Air Force [Corps],
troop carrier command, and while there at the end of the war I decided I had to think about
continuing my university education.
GAIL: This was Worid War II we're talking about?
TED: Yes, Worid War II. When I returned in 1946 from the occupation in Japan, I had
applied along with a buddy of mine, also serving over there, to enter Stanford University
because he sakl that's where he was going to go. I had four brothers previously who had
gone to the University of Idaho but I thought I would make a change, so I did and I was
accepted at Stanford and came here for the first time in my life to reside here for some
time. I had actually left from San Francisco to go to serve in the Far East, the western
Pacific, in the war. But I returned and started my university work at Stanford in the fall of
'46 and graduated in June of 1949. But I had seen this area, I liked it, I liked the climate. I
had been somewhat introduced to San Francisco and I liked that too. I chose as my
profession architecture. Stanford did not have a school [of Architecture] so I had to select
another school and I was accepted at Harvard and I went back there during that grand era
of Walter Gropius and his colleagues while they were teaching there. But I decided I did
not want to live on the East Coast and since I had liked California so much I decided I
would come back and search for work in San Francisco, which I did in very early 1955. I
had graduated Harvard in 1953 and gone to Europe for a year and a half almost, to get
acquainted with Europe. I came back and came to San Francisco in January of '55, to an
apartment which I had seen advertised in the newspaper on Telegraph Hill and it turned
out to be 48 Calhoun Terrace. That was on the 2"*^ of February of 1955 and I've been here
ever since. So that's how I came here.
GAIL: You were describing the apartment then and what you've done to it.
TED: The apartment then was not as big as it is now because of the way this apartment
house was built, a very unusual site. Some of it was shear cliff, some of it sloping and it
looked like a honible engineering endeavor, which they apparently solved because I've
always felt safe on this site, even during earthquakes. But when they built down in the
stepped fashion that they did with these rather well-known apartments, they left a lot of
hollow space behind the apartments and over to the cliff. Well, in recent years the three
48 Calhoun Terrace from the bottom of the hill
48 Calhoun Terrace from the side
lower apartments found that they could break through the wall and extend their apartments
some distance back to the surface of the cliff and so the three lower ones became much
larger; they were all enlarged. I was in between those three [#48], 46, 48, and 50, which
were enlarged. But that was done much more recently, maybe, oh, fifteen to twenty years
ago that those were being completed. So the apartment house has changed. One of the
owners of the apartment house had decided to modemize ail the kitchens, which they did.
So all those kitchens have changed from vintage 1937 to, well, modern days.
GAIL: So the building was built in 1937?
TED: Yes, '37-'38, I believe. It was before they put in the street up there, which I think is
dated '39-'40 or something like that. So I saw it after the street had been built, of course,
but it was an unusual street arrangement in that the Upper Terrace overhangs the Lower
Terrace and with parking on the curbs, why, there was only room for one car to manipulate
and it has been astonishing to some taxi drivers, for instance, or other people to come
around the bend and see this narrow street that they have to manipulate in to get their
passengers or deliver their fumiture or v\rtiatever it is. It's something that we've teamed
how to deal with but it's a little alarming the first time you see what the problems are.
I moved in with nothing but a suitcase and immediately had to start collecting things,
which I did, and over the years I've collected and collected and collected to where I have
fifty-one years of stuff. If you've stayed in one apartment very long, why, you know how
that happens. In any case, I've liked the apartments; they were unusually attractive with
million-dollar views and charming layouts and on the whole very attractive and entertaining
to live in. Whenever you have guests they're absolutely dazzled by the views and
mesmerized, as I was for months when I first moved in. But now I keep my windows
largely shuttered against bright sun and glare unless people are here. Still one bad thing
about the apartment was from the top of the street down to the bottom apartment there are
some ninety or ninety-two steps and there's no elevator in the block and there's no way to
put an elevator in the building so your legs have to be young and in shape, I guess, for it.
After fifty-one years mine are becoming less so but I'm still here, I'm still climbing the stairs
usually at least once a day.
There have been lots of changes. At first glance you'd think there haven't been a lot of
changes on Telegraph Hill because you walk up through the neighborhood and say, 'Well,
no tall buildings have gone up or no huge, huge buildings have come in," and largely that's
been because of Telegraph Hill Dwellers' insistence that we didn't want to develop our
neighborhood in that way and the city recognized their wishes and acquiesced and zoned
It, so, indeed, no tall buildings are allowed on Telegraph Hill. I think there's something like
a thirty-nine foot limit or something like that height. So the neighborhood doesn't look too
much changed but if you look a little deeper you'll see that a great many of the buildings
have been replaced or wholly modernized and totally changed and some have been
designated landmark buildings and they can't be changed, at least extemally. So all this
makes for a very homogenous neighborhood and it pretty much stays that way in your
mind. People that have lived in the neighborhood love it. People are friendly. However,
the neighborhood has changed from one largely of Italian families to a very mixed group
stairs down to Siddoway Apartment
and very few children are ever seen among those families. It's more or less professionals
and older people who tend to live on the Hill.
Beyond the Hill here, however, the million-dollar views have changed, they've changed a
great deal. When I looked east out of my windows in '55 and I looked towards Berkeley or
Oakland I could see green, green, green. It looked like forest over there with very few
buildings. Now it's just solid architecture, houses, institutions, etc. are very much grown up
since I moved in.
If you look south through my windows or off my deck you see the business area of San
Francisco, the financial area, and it's totally changed. Great, great high buildings have
gone up and once where the produce markets were down below we have some very
modem and rather attractive apartment units in there. All that has been changed and I've
watched that come on and grow over all these years, some fifty-one years now. But the
business buildings have gotten higher and higher and started more creeping towards the
Hill here. Back in the 70s I think the city got alarmed about that and began very rigid code
changes in the city government which stopped the encroachments. So all that - there's a
defining line down there, I think around Pacific Avenue or something like that, that you
can't come any further north with your high buildings. At one time I could see the so-called
high buildings on Market Street from here, not a one of those is left to my view because
they've all been blocked by higher buildings in between over the years.
When I look north I used to look out and be able to see the islands - well, one island up in
the north bay here, and I could watch the ships coming in all around the bend there but
now this hill is very much overgrown, a fair jungle, in fact, of greenery, so I can't see north
beyond my door, really, and my window. I still have this gorgeous eastern view but it has
changed greatly over the years.
The architecture in the neighborhood, as I say, every house along Union Street has been
either changed or totally replaced from Montgomery down to the terraces. The two that
aren't apparently changed from the street view are the two that are on Lower Calhoun
Terrace. The Neutra House, which is nationally famous or maybe even world famous. It's
by Richard Neutra, the very famous architect, and that remains the same. Also the face of
the Calhoun Apartments remains pretty much the same as it was. On the Upper Terrace,
the so-called Compound Area, which I'll speak of later, has been totally replaced by a large
block, rather nicely designed, apartment house. And the other two buildings along the
terrace there have been greatly modernized, one just recently and the other - the last one,
the more southern one, much earlier. So that brings the terraces up to date, I think.
GAIL: Which is the Neutra House and how do you spell Neutra?
TED: N-e-u-t-r-a is Neutra, Richard Neutra. He worked out of - he was an Austrian, I
think, or German, one or the other, and he was taught in Europe but ended up in the
United States in Los Angeles. He put up a few beautiful buildings in the modern style, very
well detailed and everything in this house up here is especially detailed - doorknobs,
shelving, and mirrors, everything. None of it was out of a catalogue, it was all beautifully
Neutra House (foreground) and Calhoun Apartments (right)
48 Calhoun Terrace (Calhoun Apartments)
done, it was done for the people who owned a large store in the Oakland area and then
the man died off and it was transferred to a couple who were retiring. I think they were out
the Midwest; their name was Goodkind, very good neighbors. Then Mr. Goodkind died off
and Mrs. Goodkind moved away to a country house that she had and it was sold again to
the people who own it now. They're some fellows who are very good and very careful
about taking care of it. So that is, as I say, a landmark building, it gets a lot of attention
from architecture students who come by to see it. As a matter of fact, it used to be on the
San Francisco - and maybe still is - tour of this historical area. They would come and for
many years they would visit the house and they were sort of entertained in the gardens
below the house by the people who owned the house. It was a nice little gesture on their
part. That takes care pretty much of the architectural things I've seen change here.
Now the neighborhood in a way hasn't changed very much except in traffic. When I came
here you could find a parking space near your front door any hour of the day or night.
Well, America grew more prosperous and everybody got a car, if not two cars, and there
are not many garages in this part of town, especially in the older buildings. But most
families were getting two cars so there had been a problem developing over the years and
it is one that you have to be very savvy about, when you could leave, when you could
retum, and what the rules of the parking are and, I guess, even when you can maybe
break a rule and park in a red zone ovemight or something like that. But it's quite a difficult
other things on the Hill haven't changed so much except that Speedy's Market, which is
wonderfully convenient to have here, has changed ownership four times.
GAIL: Since you moved in?
TED: I mean I've known four different owners here. But the shop pretty much remains as
a mom-and-pop type store but there have been subtle differences depending on who
owned it. Right now people are very happy with the present owners.
GAIL: Can you talk about the previous owners and what it was like with them?
TED: The first owners were some people named Leon and Irene Wiatrak [In 1954, the
Spediaccis sold the business to the Wiatraks, page 73, San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, by
David Myrick] and they were people who lived down at the foot of the Hill on the northwest
side but had their shop up here. The husband was the butcher for the shop, they've
always had a butcher counter, and the wife handled the counter. They had a couple of
children who occasionally came in to help too but when they grew up, they disappeared.
Well, I think Mr. Wiatrak died and so the property was sold to a man and his wife who
came from the Fresno area, I think. His name was Atashkarian. There are a lot of
Armenians in that area. But he took it over and was a very enthusiastic person and tried to
provide all sorts of little additional details, as much as he could in the small space that they
had. After a while he tired of the grocery business and decided he wanted to go into real
estate, which he did, and sold out to some people who had worked for him who were
Chinese-Americans. They had been stock boys and that sort of thing, delivery boys, and
the two brothers took over - Marshall and Art Dong were their names, very friendly, very
much-liked people. As I recall, two or three years ago the Hill gave them a large party
when they decided they wanted to retire and filled up a restaurant here on the Hill. It was
packed with people who came out to wish them well. But they sold out to a pair of fellows,
one was an American, one was a French-Canadian. They are operating the store now.
They added a little innovation, kind of a deli as well as the other additional things, a much-
welcomed kind of thing which we didn't have before, at least on the top of the Hill. I'm not
sure whether there were any other groceries up here on the top of the Hill in the past.
There might have been and well may have been. But when I arrived here in '55, only
Speed/s was left. Speedy's was founded in 1915 by the Spediacci family, hence the
name Speedy's, and it was actually titled The New Union Grocery Store but everyone
knows it affectionately as Speedy's and everybody's kept that Speedy's name. So that's
been one of the changes I've seen but in a way it hasn't been a change at all because it's
always been a market there where I do a great deal of my marketing for my kitchen.
Further down the Hill, across the street from Speedy's on the north side of Union when I
arrived here was an abandoned grade school for children. But since the children had
started disappearing there wasn't any need for the school anymore so it sat there until a
man named Schaeffer, who used to be down in the Potrero area decided he wanted to
move to the North Beach area and he took over the whole building as a design studio. He
was a designer of commercial designs. He took that over 'til, I think, the city decided to
sell the property or whatever, or Mr. Schaeffer did, I'm not sure, but it was sold to the
Schaeffer School of Design on Union about 1955
350 Union Street, 2008
present owners who built the 350 Union Street Apartments, which are mostly studio
apartments . There are, I think, two which are not. It has a great courtyard in the center.
They're quite attractive but they are small. So that was the biggest architectural change
along that street clear down to the bottom of the Hill.
All the others - a lot of them were here during the Great Fire. Some of them on the top of
the Hill were saved but all the others were put in in the eariy century, I think, teens and
'20s, that sort of thing, to the bottom of the Hill down to Washington Square. So there has
not been too much change there.
GAIL: You mentioned you felt safe in earthquakes. You lived through one in the late '50s.
TED: I lived through a lesser one but still one that caused a lot of damage down in the
downtown area. It was in 1 957 and I was on the top of a twelve-story building there,
working for an architect there. It was just before noon or just at noon when it happened
and for about fifteen minutes you coukl feel the building swaying back and forth, back and
forth. So you knew it was a fairly strong earthquake and you went down to the street and
there was glass all over. I don't think there were any fatalities during that one. But I got
home from there that afternoon and found that some pictures had gone askew on the wall
and some plate guards on my stove had shifted a little and that was all that had happened,
so I felt very safe about that one.
The next one was a real shocker, the Loma Prieta (1989). As we all remember it was just
before the first throw out of the World Series, which happened to be the Oakland A's and
the San Francisco Giants down here at Candlestick Park. Well, just as everybody was
fixing their first cocktail of the evening and going to settle down in front of the TV set,
whammo. The first thing you do is run for the front door, which I did with my glass in hand,
and waited there to see whether there would be another horrible shock. There was some
shaking after it but no other shock came. Then I spotted a upstairs, Gladys, who lived up, I
think, in No. 40 or something like that, and she was at the door too; she had her glass in
hand. I said, "Well, maybe we'd better get together and sit this through." She says, "Good
idea, come on up." She was waiting for her husband who was away at his gymnasium and
we waited and waited and waited for him; finally I left but that was after dark. He was
having a hard time, I guess, getting through the traffic to get home because all the traffic
lights had gone out, the city was totally dark as the sun went down only the automobile
lights were illuminating the city.
Sansome Street down below me here was absolutely solid bumper-to-bumper, non-moving
cars because the Bay Bridge had been shut down by the falling roadbed and that became
a parking lot. So everybody who was going to go anywhere had to go either down to San
Jose and come up the other side or go across the Golden Gate Bridge and then across the
San Rafael Bridge to get to the East Bay. It was a terrible night but people were very
patient. People would get out of their cars and direct traffic. We could see that t>elow,
they had flashlights - "Now it's your tum, now it's your turn." [chuckle] It was an
interesting show. One of the few great shows I've seen here from my windows, and
entertaining. I had telephone service in my apartment 'til very late that night so I was
phoning all over the cxiuntry and people could phone me in San Francisco. I said, "Well, I
can phone out," and they said, "We can't, would you please phone for me?" So I was
phoning people in the - 1 had one friend who wanted his sister phoned in Wisconsin.
I called a sister in Idaho and I said, "We had an earthquake but I don't think it was too
serious. She said, "Oh, yes, it was. The bridge is down and the north part of the city is
buming." And I didn't realize that until much later when the smoke started coming around
the edge of the Hill here and it got very, very smoky here.
GAIL: But you had no damage in the apartment?
TED: I had no damage. I had one glass vase fall from the top shelf in my living room but it
had hit against something before it quite got to the floor so it didn't break. That's all that
happened in that one so I said, "This building must be pretty safe."
GAIL: Even though it's on a cliff.
TED: Yes. But, of course, after every earthquake there's a few more cracks you see in
the walls but you see those even whether there're earthquakes or not. That was a great
show that night but a previous great show which happened I guess around the eariy '60s
or something like that was just late one working day as people were coming home from
work - it was in the summer I think because it was a nice wamn night. There was a fire
alarm down on Sansome Street, It happened to be one of the large brick warehouses, over
eighty feet high, no windows in it, but it started burning and I guess probably every unit in
San Francisco turned out for it. But as people came home and it was still daylight and
there were the cop cars, so they took a pitcher of whatever it was that they wanted to drink
and took a chair out and we sat there all evening watching this great fire bum in this huge
building and it went on and on and on 'til way after dark. The building was gutted and
finally it was demolished and now it's part of Levi Straus Plaza down here. But that was a
great show that night. Lots of people turned out for the real fireworks. That was fun.
GAIL: You also mentioned the Produce Market.
TED: The Produce Market was wonderful to visit. It was kind of almost a tourist attraction
because it went on all night. They would bring in the produce from across the Bay and
separate it from the trucks and so forth and the grocers would come down with their trucks
and get what they wanted and take it back and all that had to be done before they opened
in the moming. So there were lights on all night down there. Well, one of the things about
it, they had restaurants down there. So after, say, you had been out nightdubbing or going
to a concert or a movie or something you'd say, "Let's go get something to eat in the
Produce Market". It was wonderful fun to go down there and see all these workers and get
a bowl of chili or something like that. It was very entertaining if you weren't quite ready for
GAIL: And that was where Golden Gateway is now.
TED: That's where the Golden Gateway is now.
GAIL: When did that end?
TED: Well, I think that was through the '60s. The city was deciding that our shoreline here
was much too precious to give over to things like that so they started to develop it and
they've pretty much gone all the way from Crissy Field these days, clear around the bend
and down below the Bay Bridge and south there. It's promenades and developments.
They have kept a lot of the piers and I don't know whether they intend to keep them but I
think probably they do, some of them. Mentioning the piers and coming here in the '50s, it
was great fun to watch the ships from abroad come in during the week because they came
from all over the world. I had a little book that told me what the signs on the ships meant
and what the ensigns of the flags on the ship - what country they were from. Nearly every
slot would be full here during the week.
GAIL: On the piers just down here?
TED: On these piers here, yes. Just total boats, total ships. But once the Oakland Port
got really built up and could take the ships, they started going over there and, of course,
now no cargo ships come into San Francisco so it left these piers without any takers. But
that was a very interesting thing to watch. On the weekends they would totally clear out
because the longshoremen didn't work on weekends. Now everything is in containers and
they have all the proper derricks and cranes and all that In the East Bay - Oakland and up
to Stockton where all this is taken care of. The problem was that in San Francisco, if you
unloaded in San Francisco, the only way out for the railroads was to go clear down to San
Jose and then go east or south or west or north or wherever it was - not west but north,
because there was no railroad across from here to Oakland. No railroad bridge was ever
built so it cut San Francisco out as a cargo port and that left them with no longshoremen or
anything like that either. Of course, the passenger ships still come in and the Navy still
comes in but that's about all. The pleasure boats have taken over too. It's been
interesting to watch the development over the years.
I have a note here that says "compounds." There was a compound here [chuckle] which
was a leftover from the early part of the 20* Century sometime - the teens or the '20s,
whatever - that had developed up here on a big building lot. A one-story building painted
rather garish colors, very ramshackle construction but for many years it had been occupied
by artists. There were about two or three, they say, on the Hill in various places. This one
was at the corner of Upper Calhoun Terrace and Union Street. By the time I got here in
'55 there were very few artists left there. I think they were mostly young people working
down in the Financial District or in the downtown area but they would come home at night
around five o'clock and go up to the roof, take their chairs and their cocktails or their beers
on the warm summer nights and just sit around and visit with each other 'til after sundown.
GAIL: Every night?
Top of Union Street with "Compound" on corner, c. 1955
Top of Union Street with "Compound" on corner, c. 1955
TED: Every night that they could with the weather permitting. They were a young group,
largely unmarried but had lots to visit about apparently. I never joined them ever because I
didn't live in that compound but [chuckle] this building here had its own little Bohemian
ways too. I think during the Second World War and after, until I got here in '55, they had
been very neighborly as a group. On Friday aftemoons, Friday evenings you left your door
open, you put out all your refreshment bottles, shall we say, and cans on your kitchen
counter, left the door open, and everybody wandered up and down the stairs and you just
- if you ran out of fuel, as it were, you could go in the nearest kitchen and load up again
and that's the way it would be until, I guess, more or less dinnertime and that would be a
standard thing on Friday nights. In addition to that they would have street dances where
they would close the Lower Calhoun Terrace, clear it of all the cars, they would wax the
pavement and they would rent a dance band and put in overhead lights spanning between
the buildings and the concrete wall and they would have this little party every year and it
was free to everybody. So you invited your friends and then you had a few posters around
the Hill saying, "Come on over and join us in the street party." They did that. That was
kind of a thing. But I think I saw the last one only when that happened.
GAIL: When you moved in.
TED: Yes. I think they had them usually in September or in the nice part of the weather
here, in the warm part. I think the first Septemt>er I was here they had one so I saw what it
was like. They rented tables and chairs and the dance band and everybody had a good
time. Because if you wanted something to drink, well, the apartments were open, go in
and fix what you want, [chuckle]
GAIL: And that had been going on for years?
TED: That has been going on, I think, yes, for many, many years. I don't know whether it
was going on during the war but it might have been, but it certainly was after the war.
Because there were some so-called Bohemian types that lived in this building. As a matter
of fact, one afternoon my doorbell rang and I answered the intercom and there was a
young man saying - introduced himself and said, "If I said the name Diego Rivera would
you know what I was talking about?" I said, "Well, of course, I've taken many art courses
and I've seen a lot of his work, especially in Mexico City and some in San Francisco." He
said, "Well, do you know that you're living in the apartment he lived in?" I said, "No, I did
not know that." But apparently he had some sort of authority or reference maybe through
Rivera's own autobiography or something like that, I dont know. I've tried to verify it with
some books about him but I haven't been able to verify that since. But he and his wife,
Frida Kahio, apparently lived here when it was just a small apartment and he was doing
the murals here in San Francisco. So there have been a few people like that in the
building. But I think he would be considered the most famous.
GAIL: How many units were there in the compound?
TED: I don't know but there nnust have been at least eight or ten, maybe even more.
Some of them maybe were shared with people but some were just single people living
there. But you'd see that group every night that the weather was good, sitting on top of the
roof of this garish pink building and having the best time, helped along by a little - well,
tiddledy, shall we say? That was in 1961 and that was sold to somebody that wanted to
retire. He was an out-of-towner and wanted to build some income property so he hired a
very well-known architect, somebody I had worked for as a matter of fact -a very well-
known architect, even intemationally well known named Gardner Dailey who did the
building. They tore down the compound and put up this nice-looking apartment house.
GAIL: And it's there now.
TED: The one new big building that has come into the neighborhood since I moved here.
I don't know who owns it now; I think the original owners have since passed on.
GAIL: What about Grant Avenue, what businesses were there?
TED: Well, Grant Avenue's changed over the years but in a way - not much you could
really analyze because there have been many bars that opened and ckDsed and then the
little dress units or clothing units opened and closed. Then some little galleries that
opened and some closed and then there' ve been one or two restaurants that opened. But
some of the old names still stay. But you drive along it and you think, "Well, this hasn't
changed since It first was there, put up, when it was called - on some maps all this area
was called the Latin Quarter t}ecause of all the Italians who lived here. It was largely
Italians who were up here. But these days a good deal of it is Chinese on the west side of
the Hill and they've moved into some of the stores on Grant Avenue too but not too many.
Those have been largely kept by the Italian families, I think, or others. But it has changed
in many ways. Of course, I used to patronize a good many of the places, the restaurants
and some of the spas, as It were. It's always been tiny stores, there's no big brand thing at
all down there.
GAIL: Do you remember when you first moved here what restaurants were there; where
you would go at night?
TED: I don't know. But that souffle place that was there for years. [Cafe Jacqueline] It
only made souffles. It may still be there, I'm not too sure. That's been there many, many
years. The Savoy-Tivoli was there a long time ago. That, for a while, was a restaurant as
well as a bar. I don't know whether it's still a restaurant or not. Back in an alley behind
Grant Avenue there was one called the Spaghetti Factory and that's still open too, I think.
GAIL: It's called the Bocce now.
TED: Yes, they've changed the name. But that was an alley you walked into to get back
into it. That's where I first heard of the word "steam beer," which is indigenous to San
Francisco, which they sold there. Well, the New Pisa was on the comer down towards the
south end of Grant Avenue there, before it hits Columbus Street, but I think it has moved
around the comer. I think it's called something else now. One of the most recent ones to
get in there has been this Greek restaurant [Estia], which I've been to and it's good food.
But other restaurants I don't remember so much, no. But there have been a lot of
GAIL: So where would you tend to go on a night out?
TED: Usually down to the Square, Washington Square on Columbus Avenue. If I was
staying in the neighborhood at all that's where I would go because Washington Square is
always brightly lit. A lot of those restaurants have been there almost forever. Finally, Fior
d'ltalia was moved out by the fire, but the North Beach Restaurant has been there as long
as I know. That's just on Stockton Street there. Now Moose's was on the other side of the
square for many years and called The Washbag, The Washington Square Bar and Grill.
He ran that but he wanted to get a little grander so he moved across the Square into a
place that used to be an Italian fumiture shop. He upgraded and made a very fine
restaurant and bar out of that and it became very popular. I understand now that's been
sold to someone else but it still retains the name Moose's. Well, for many years we had
the movie theatre on the Square and that played movies and then finally movies didn't pay
off so they tumed it into kind of a vaudeville place. They had some daffy shows there for a
while and then I think they made it into kind of a mall and now it's - 1 dont know what it Is
GAIL: But it used to show first-run movies?
TED: More or less, yes. It was the neighborhood movie house that people used to go to
t)efore the age of television. It took in the '50s and '60s, I guess, and drove so many
movie houses out of business, in the neighborhoods especially. Of course, part of North
Beach - but not Telegraph Hill - is the wharf down there. That's changed quite a bit. It
gets more and more and more touristy and I find it less and less attractive to me but it's
very popular with tourists. But that's right at the foot of Telegraph Hill. I'm not as familiar
with the north side of Telegraph Hill as I've been with the other three sides. But I don't
think it's changed too much simply because of the zoning laws. Other than that, I'm the
only thing that's changed, I think [chuckle] to an old man. I'm still going, as Telegraph Hill
is. I see some people of my vintage still coming out. Every once in a while I don't see
them anymore and I guess you know what's happened.
It's been a great neighborhood. Everybody who lives here has sort of loved it. It's become
a little pricey in temns of rents, i think, but a lot of young people today get very good jobs
and they can afford it so they do.
GAIL: Your neighbors In this building, have they mostly been here a long time or ...?
TED: Not recently. There's been a great tumover in the last, oh, four or five years, I would
say. During the - 1 would say '50s, '60s, and '70s, there was hardly any turnover at all.
Everybody got to know everyone by first name and all that. You'd know whose car was
whose and that sort of thing if you needed them to get out of your way or whatever. But
it's very hard to keep up with them now. One of the things is that the rents have greatly
increased although if you stay here, why, you're protected by the rent laws but if you're just
moving in, why, it's very pricey, about as pricey as any in town, I think. This and Russian
Hill, Pacific Heights. But I came and I stayed, still here.
GAIL: You must have liked it.
TED: Yes. As I say, I like the neighborhood very much, the people and the people who
are in the building I liked too but I don't know anybody in the building anymore except two
who have been here a long time along with me, one of the ladies upstairs and then a
doctor who's a guy further up who has been here a long time too. We're the three old-
GAIL: How many units are there?
TED: There are eleven units. There are three that were originally all similar but the
bottom three are those that have t>een enlarged. There were eight units that were all
similar and three have been enlarged out of those eight. Now in addition too, there are
three that were put into the innards of the buikiing and really only have a view south. They
don't have the Bay view unless you go out onto their decks, which they do have decks,
little decks on the south side of the building. But they dont have this expanse of windows
that I have here.
GAIL: But eight of them do.
TED: But they do have a view, yes. Every apartment is a view apartment. That's what's
always made the building more popular with people. You know, the view in San Francisco
is a big thing, a view and a fireplace, deck. Those are big selling points.
I dont know what else I can bring up that I haven't covered. As I say, I like the
neighborhood, I'm always glad I lived here. It's very entertaining for me and my friends.
The nice thing about it was I worked in the city and from Telegraph Hill when I was working
I could walk to work on any job I had, I didn't have to take the MUNI or drive or anything
like that; you could walk. Now sometimes it was up and down hills but when you're
younger you can handle those things. But that was always nice and it was always nice
maybe after working all day in an office to get some exercise by walking home maybe the
mile or mile and a half or whatever it was, even though it was uphill some of it.
GAIL: Did you do architecture for homes?
TED: We did homes and apartments and largely the homes were outside the city. I had
been in offices that were all kinds of things - institutional buildings and medical buildings
and commercial buildings. I ended up in a two-man office, which was largely just
apartments and single-family homes. Some of those down on the Peninsula, some in the
East Bay, some in the Upper Peninsula. Some of the apartments we did - we did some
lovely apartment remodels here in San Francisco for, shall we say, the rich people. They
were fun to do because you cxjuld do nice things. So that was a lot of fun. Yes, I preferred
that kind of design to the large institutional schools, hospitals, and university buildings; all
those kinds of things weren't quite as interesting for me. For a while I worked for a man
who did homes for Joseph Eichler, If you know who Eichler is. They're kind of well-known
homes. They're very American Western style, lots of glass and modern post-and-beam
construction. They're very attractive and they're money makers these days, they sell for
quite a lot of money if they're in good shape, even though they were considered modest
homes at the time.
GAIL: They were sort of their version of the tract home.
TED: Yes, It was. They were largely tract homes. We would make little variations in them
so they weren't all just one ilk. That was a nice job. I enjoyed that work. Other than that,
I've been using San Francisco as my base. I traveled a lot in recent years and seen quite
a bit of the worid, not all of it but quite a bit. I have my favorite spots but more and more if I
travel I go on cruises because it's a little easier.
GAIL: Well, if you're finished about the Hill, I'll tum it [the recorder] off.
[End of interview]
PHOTO CREDITS - Ted Siddoway
David Myrick, THD Archives Collection:
48 Calhoun Terrace from the bottom of the hill Between Pages 2 and 3
Schaeffer School of Design on Union about 1955 Between Pages 9 and 10
Top of Union Street with "Compound" on comer 1955 Between Pages 15 and 16
San Francisco Public Library Historical Photogr^h Collection, originally Holiday
Sunbathing on the Compound roof. Upper Calhoun Terrace at Union Street, 1958
Between Pages 15 and 16
Gail Switzer, THD Oral History Committee Interviewer:
48 Calhoun Terrace from the side of the hill Between Pages 2 and 3
Upper and Lower Calhoun Terrace, 2008 Between Pages 3 and 4
Stairs down to Siddoway apartment Between Pages 4 and 5
Ted on his balcony view to south-east Between Pages 5 and 6
Neutra House and Calhoun Apartments Between Pages 6 and 7
48 Calhoun Terrace (Calhoun Apartments) Between Pages 6 and 7
350 Union Street, 2008 Between Pages 9 and 1
Top of Union Street, Dailey House on comer, 2007 Between Pages 15 and 16